- WHO named new COVID-19 variant that emerged from South Africa as 'Omicron', skipping 'Nu' and 'Xi'
- 'Nu' could be mistaken as the English word 'new', Xi skipped to "avoid stigmatising a region": WHO
- If WHO is this scared of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted: US Senator Ted Cruz
The World Health Organisation (WHO) named the new COVID-19 variant that emerged from South Africa as 'Omicron' on Friday. While all the variants of the coronavirus infection were named consecutively after Greek alphabets, the WHO has skipped two alphabets - 'Nu' and 'Xi'. Soon after, 'Omicron' became a conversational piece on social media, with many users across the world questioning the WHO's choices, and debating over reasons behind the decision.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron," the WHO said on Friday.
Tariq Jasarevic, a spokesperson of the WHO had said that "Nu and Xi are extremely common names". He added that 'Nu' could be mistaken as the English word 'new', stating the reason for skipping the Greek alphabet. Xi has been skipped to avoid misconstruction as a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A senior editor at the Tribune said that a WHO source confirmed the letters Nu and Xi of the Greek alphabet had been deliberately avoided. He further wrote on Twitter, "All pandemics inherently political!"
The United States Senator Ted Cruz questioned the WHO's choice, asking, "If the WHO is this scared of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted to call them out the next time they're trying to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?"
In 2019, when the coronavirus emerged, most public, including the then US President Donald Trump, had called it the 'Chinese virus'. The Chinese government condemned this stating that the "Covid virus is a problem of the world, and should not be linked to any country".
This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.